Tosca at the Met: New York on a $1 a day!


Opera is like waiata: singing a story.   And like waiata you don’t have to know the story or understand each word to understand the narrative. Much of human communication is by gesture, tone and facial expression as much as by specific word use.

Contemporary “soap-operas” derive their description from traditional opera. Tosca by Puccini has all the ingredients: bravery, beauty, jealousy, fabulous clothing, good men and bad men, poor decision-making and not unexpected bad endings.

I laugh when the Rialto tells me my ticket to the evening’s performance of Tosca will cost me $28.   I’m going to an evening at New York’s Metropolitan Opera. What I wonder is how could I have reached the age that I am and have never been to “the Met”.

In the three-hour plus production of Tosca that I attend Floria Tosca and her lover are supposed to be young and their behaviours explicable because of youth.   At the end of the evening I decide that Tosca was a woman of middle-years with a more youthful lover and the intensity of her jealousy and her overwhelmingly stupidity were the direct result of that autumn-spring relationship.

Set at a time of Napoleonic warfare and turmoil, the opera weaves the threads of political upheaval and opposition not unlike that happening in contemporary Catalan. Here the fleeing leader’s dangerous position ensnares Tosca not so much because of her lover’s staunch support for his friend but because of her personal insecurity and reactions.  

While I was entranced by the entire production, my absolute favourite and relatable performance was that of Zeljko Lucic as the villan Scarpia. From the first moment Scarpia and his entourage of spectacularly unappealing thugs enter the stage I felt the menace and abuse of power.  

Because the cast was dressed in clothing of the period with heavy black knee-length boots and Gestapo reminiscent floor-skimming coats I instantly thought “Nazi”. But then Scarpia and his head-honcho with his regular-featured face and swept-back hair screamed Trump – Trump the younger or Kushner. And it was disconcerting that Scarpia’s attitudes and statements about women could have come straight from the locker room. The direct physical contact and physical groping of his intended victim intensified this feeling. Although I agree with another reviewer, the moment which most exemplified the imbalance of power was when Scarpia merely leaned behind the seated Tosca.

One or two of the reviews I’ve read subsequently suggest Lucic’s performance was not sufficiently menacing or he did not portray the character as sufficiently aristocratic.   I don’t agree. This Scarpia portrayed someone totally aware of his power over everyone: any attempt to embellish or embroider his character would have created an unbelievable “ham”.  

This production had a chequered history but in true performance tradition one man’s misery was another man’s opportunity. All the leading singers were “ringins”.   Tosca and Cavarradossi were first time performers (Sonya Yoncheva and Vittorio Grigolo) and Lucic has apparently made a career of Scarpia. I was moved and the audience gave Yoncheva and Grigolo standing ovations: probably acknowledging their relative youth and daring.

During the three intermissions there were no ice creams for me. We were taken to meet “the stars”, backstage change-overs, forthcoming performances…..and an explanation of how someone like me, so far from New York, is able to sit in a small cinema and share such a memorable experience.

When my new broadband connection arrives I spend an inordinate amount of my evening “free time” watching You Tube: the incomparable Maria Callas and others. A whole new world!

And here’s a brief video:

My attendance at the Metropolitan Opera was through The Met: Live in HD series which is made possible by a generous grant from its founding sponsor The Neubauer Family Foundation. The Digital support of The Met Live in HD is provided by Bloomberg Philanthropies.   The HD broadcasts are supported by Toll Brothers America’s Luxury Home Builders.

The Rialto provides a written synopsis of the opera and there are sub-titles in English.  

Next up Donizetti, L’Elisir D’Amore the Rialto season commencing this Saturday May 5th and running until Monday 14th May. Am I going: yes!

L’Elisir D’Amore by Donizetti is his comic gem staged by Bartlett Sher and conducted by Domingo Hindoyan. It stars Pretty Yende as the spirited Adina, with Matthew Polenzani as Nemorino, the simple peasant who falls in love with her. Davide Luciano makes his Met debut as the role of Adina’s arrogant fiancé, Belcore and Ildebrando D’Arcangelo sings the role of the magic potion peddling Doctor Dulcamara. Domingo Hindoyan makes his company debut conducting.

Other gems to look forward to at the Rialto Tauranga:

May 17 – 27 Puccini, La Boheme

June 07 – 13 Rossini, Seramide

June 23 – 27 Mozart, Cosi Fan Tutte

July 26 – 01 August Verdi Luisa Miller

August 09 – 15 Massenet, Cendrillon

FOR MORE INFORMATION ABOUT THE Metropolitan Opera in New Zealand:

The Rialto is a boutique cinema complex in the Goddard Centre which runs between Devonport Road and Grey Street, Downtown Tauranga.

Although not available for screenings of The Met HD, The Rialto has a discount offer for the community: The Rialto Club:- $10 Adult Membership, $10 Student Membership and $7 Senior Membership. You then get your tickets (unless stated) for only $10 for any film, any session, any day! There’s also a 20% discount on drinks, sweets, ice creams etc. The Rialto shows a comprehensive programme of cinema and the next screening I’ll be at will be another Met Opera (not included in the discount scheme).

LIFESTYLE FLOWERS, Whakamarama (Barbara Peck)  Talented grower and florist Barbara Peck creates works of floral art at her purpose built studio in Whakamarama.  The daughter of a florist and a grower, Barbarba has years of experience across all aspects of floral work and creativity.  You can contact Barbara at              or Phone:   027 614 9963

Rosemary Balu. Rosemary Balu is the founding and current Managing Editor of ARTbop. Rosemary has arts and law degrees from the University of Auckland. She has been a working lawyer and has participated in a wide variety of community activities where information gathering, submission writing, community advocacy and education have been involved. Interested in all forms of the arts since childhood Rosemary is focused on further developing and expanding multi-media ARTbop as the magazine for all the creative arts in the Bay of Plenty, New Zealand.




Join us every second Wednesday of the month,

6.00pm to 8.30pm

     at the

   Black Sheep Bar & Grill

Cnr SH2 and Plummers Point Road, Whakamarama

Read your own poems or poems by your favourite poet.   Enjoy the power of the spoken word!

Phone:   07 571 8722   021 145 5810

The first meeting of alchemy was held in April in the Conference Room at the Black Sheep in Whakamarama.  Published poems were read; original poems shared and discussion flowed.   Whakamarama locals Jo and Piers Wiggett and Rosemary Balu shared their words.   ARTbop Contributions Editor author, reviewer and raconteur, Marcus Hobson read.  Dhaivat Mehta, one of Tauranga’s established slam and spoken word poets facilitated the evening and shared some of his words.   Come along this month:  the second Wednesday of the month: May 9th 6.30pm to 8.30pm and share and enjoy.   It’s also the Black Sheep’s popular curry night: enjoy your dinner and then share your thoughts and words.

alchemy is part of a network of poetry groups Dhaivat Mehta is establishing throughout the Bay of Plenty under the umbrella:  incantation.



the Bay of Plenty’s creative arts magazine!

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And don’t forget the next Affordable Art & Artisan Fair will be on the last Sunday of May 2018.  The Fairs are held within the Black Sheep Bar & Grill complex.  If the weather’s bad we become an indoor market.  You’ll find us in the Atrium, and around the restaurant and cafe seating:  looks so good!  So no need to worry about the rain or the wind.  There is heaps of parking, clean toilets and wonderful food and coffee.  There’s live music.    If you would like to join us as an exhibitor/retailer of your original creativity you can contact us at

We are sign posted along SH2 with signage to the turnoff of SH2 and Plummer’s Point Road. 







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